When entries that are already sorted are stored in a tree, all new records will go the same route, and the tree will look more like a list (such a tree is called a degenerate tree). Therefore the tree needs balancing routines, making sure that under all branches are an equal number of records. This will keep searching in the tree at optimal speed. Specifically, if a tree with n nodes is a degenerate tree, the longest path through the tree will be n nodes; if it is a balanced tree, the longest path will be log n nodes.
Algorithms/Left rotation: This shows how balancing is applied to establish a priority heap invariant in a Treap, a data structure which has the queueing performance of a heap, and the key lookup performance of a tree. A balancing operation can change the tree structure while maintaining another order, which is binary tree sort order. The binary tree order is left to right, with left nodes' keys less than right nodes' keys, whereas the priority order is up and down, with higher nodes' priorities greater than lower nodes' priorities. Alternatively, the priority can be viewed as another ordering key, except that finding a specific key is more involved.
The balancing operation can move nodes up and down a tree without affecting the left right ordering.
- AVL: A balanced binary search tree according to the following specification: the heights of the two child subtrees of any node differ by at most one.
- Red-Black Tree: A balanced binary search tree using a balancing algorithm based on colors assigned to a node, and the colors of nearby nodes.
- AA Tree: A balanced tree, in fact a more restrictive variation of a red-black tree.